A Newly Found Exoplanet May See Its End Before It Gets Starts
A new study suggests one of the youngest alien worlds ever detected may not be long for this universe.
Jupiter-like exoplanet candidate PTFO8-8695b, which lies about 1,100 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Orion, was first identified as a planet candidate in 2012 by the Palomar Transient Factory’s Orion survey, but now study lead author Christopher Johns-Krull, of Rice University in Houston, said “We don’t know the ultimate fate of this planet.”
The “hot Jupiter” orbits extremely close to its host star, completing one lap every 11 hours, and was detected by the “transit method,” which notes the tiny brightness dips caused when a planet crosses its host star’s face and astronomers now believe the outer layers of the exoplanet are being ripped away by the strong gravity of its 2-million-year-old host star.
“It likely formed farther away from the star and has migrated in to a point where it’s being destroyed.” Johns-Krull said. “We know there are close-orbiting planets around middle-aged stars that are presumably in stable orbits. What we don’t know is how quickly this young planet is going to lose its mass, and whether it will lose too much to survive.”
The researchers had studied high-energy hydrogen emissions coming from the system and found that such emissions seeming to originate from the planet were almost as bright as those coming from the star, even though it is just 3 to 4 percent as wide as the star, reinforcing the belief that it is an exoplanet.
“We don’t yet have absolute proof this is a planet because we don’t yet have a firm measure of the planet’s mass, but our observations go a long way toward verifying this really is a planet.” Johns-Krull added. “We compared our evidence against every other scenario we could imagine, and the weight of the evidence suggests this is one of the youngest planets yet observed.”
The new study has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.